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All Songs Considered

Has anyone ever watched the Grammy's and concluded that the Recording Academy really nailed it? (No one has ever concluded they nailed it). So we begin this episode of All Songs Considered with a simple question: Why keep watching?! It's like being addicted to disappointment and outrage.

There's a line in "Culture National Anthem," the surprisingly chill closer on Migos' new album Culture II, that sums up how much has changed for the group in a year's time: "Believe me when I say we create our own sound," the trio's leader Quavo croons in a melodic wisp. "I know you see it now, what they be screaming 'bout."

Instrumental music speaks. Like a look from a lover or the clench of a fist, there is sometimes more (e)motion in the flick of a riff or the hum of an organ than words can supply. The Texas-based trio Khruangbin got its start digging on '60s and '70s Thai funk, gospel, R&B, surf, psychedelic rock and dub, creating chill instrumentals seemingly tailor-made for groove-seeking beatmakers and blissful dancers at outdoor festivals.

Every year around this time, many of us on the All Songs Considered team — including Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton and me — each dredge through nearly 2,000 MP3s by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, in search of great new discoveries. And every year, we wind up missing something. In pursuit of music by thousands of acts, hundreds slip past our radar altogether.

Few careers in contemporary music had the arc and the diversity that South Africa-born trumpeter/singer/composer Hugh Masekela did, before he succumbed to prostate cancer on Tuesday at the age of 79.

Connie Lim, who writes and records as MILCK, makes music for anyone who feels out of place in the world. Hers are songs of empowerment and cathartic healing for the displaced and brokenhearted.

It's clear Drake has earned the right to play by his own rules. And while the quadruple platinum-selling star was fairly silent in the last half of 2017, he did give fans a promise at the end of his March project, More Life.

"I'll be back in 2018 to give you the summary," Drizzy raps at the end of "Do Not Disturb."

Here's a fact few white American musicians feel comfortable facing: every kind of American music, from Top-40 pop to high mountain bluegrass, has some root in the work and creativity of people of color. Arguments about appropriation surface most commonly when artists are clearly borrowing from well-known sources; Justin Timberlake's decision to repackage his blue-eyed funk in Ralph Lauren-style quasi-neutrals is the latest example of white performers side-stepping the fact that they owe their very souls to black collaborators, acknowledged or not.

Hot Snakes is a rock 'n' roll band. Just the name alone — Hot Snakes — sounds like a weathered 45 from the Nuggets proto-punk era, when no one really knew what they were doing. When John Reis started Hot Snakes with Drive Like Jehu bandmate Rick Froberg in the early 2000s, that felt like the M.O.: plug in and play as loud as possible. In 2005, they broke up.

I have a soft spot for Yo La Tengo's curiosities, like the cloudy bossa nova shimmy of "How To Make A Baby Elephant Float" or the spelunking drones and gurgling rock improvisations heard on The Sounds Of The Sounds Of Science, which soundtracked a series of underwater documentaries.

We're dang near a quarter-century into the new millennium and George Clinton is still out here slingin' gut buckets of funk. At this point, the good Dr. Funkenstein is more than a living institution; he's half-man, half-amazing.

When The Decemberists release I'll Be Your Girl on March 16, it'll be the band's eighth album — part of a 17-year career that's taken listeners through everything from wry folk to ambitious rock opera. If I'll Be Your Girl's first single is any indication, Colin Meloy and his band have used their new record as an opportunity to try new things and hit a few reset buttons along the way.

Reality is weird — a series of events that connect from birth to death. Shame's singer, Charlie Steen, doesn't claim wisdom of the process, he's just pulling hot embers from this unruly fire, singing in a hoarse scrawl: "My nails ain't manicured / My voice ain't the best you've heard / And you can choose to hate my words / But do I give a f***."

Jay Som's Everybody Works was one of NPR Music's 50 best albums of 2017, a guitar-driven rock record with complex arrangements and even more complex emotions all wrung out from singer, songwriter and producer Melina Duterte.

Since the release of "Loveless" back in March 2017, the trio Lo Moon has slowly revealed a series of songs which grapple with various stages of a romantic relationship. Each has a slightly different sound.

There must be some meaning to life if we still have music — it gives form to our existential dread, and sometimes you can dance to it. In just four short years, Nap Eyes have made much ado about meaninglessness with rock 'n' roll songs that shake just offbeat and smart lyrics wrapped in bemused ennui.